Dell XPS 17 Review - My New Laptop?

JT JT 24 July 2020
Dell XPS 17 Review - My New Laptop?

The Dell XPS 17 has some impressive features, but there’s one main issue preventing me from making this my own laptop. I’ve got one of the more mid range configurations, however it’s also available starting with i5 processor with no discrete graphics, or up to 8 core processor with 2060 Max-Q.Dell XPS 17 Review - My New Laptop? The build quality of the XPS 17 is excellent, the whole thing is CNC aluminium. Dell XPS 17 Review - My New Laptop?The lid is solid with a silver finish, the Dell logo has a reflective mirror finish, while the interior is a black carbon fiber, it feels great and basically sets the standard for a premium feeling device.

Dell lists the starting weight as 2.1kg and max weight as 2.5kg, and my config was a bit closer to the higher end. With the 130 watt power brick and cables for charging this increases to 2.8kg or 6.2lb total. Dell XPS 17 Review - My New Laptop?The XPS 17 isn’t too thick, and the depth is actually less than many 15 inch laptops out there, though it is a little wider. It’s definitely on the smaller size for a 17” machine though, the bezels are just 5mm on the sides. Dell XPS 17 Review - My New Laptop?The 16:10 screen is basically filling the whole space, there’s no chin and it seriously looks awesome.

I’ve tested the screen with the Spyder 5, and got 99% of sRGB, 72% of NTSC, 77% of AdobeRGB and 79% of DCI-P3. Dell XPS 17 Review - My New Laptop?At 100% brightness I measured the panel at 585 nits in the center with a 1460:1 contrast ratio, some nice results, however Dell advertise it as a 500 nit panel, so that may vary. The optional 4K touchscreen apparently has 100% of AdobeRGB, so that’s what I’d be picking for content creation. Dell XPS 17 Review - My New Laptop?Backlight bleed was extremely minimal, no problems there, but this will vary between laptops and panels.

Despite those thinner screen bezels, the 720p camera is found above the display in the center, it’s got Windows Hello support which I found to work quickly. Dell XPS 17 Review - My New Laptop?The camera is pretty average, but the audio sounds pretty good, and when I type on the keyboard, you can barely hear it at all.

Screen flex is very minor when intentionally trying to push it due to the solid metal lid, and the hinges felt extremely sturdy. Dell XPS 17 Review - My New Laptop?Too sturdy perhaps, as I often found it difficult to open the lid, this seems to be due to a combination of there being nothing on the front to get your finger into and strong magnets holding the lid closed.

Chassis flex was also on the lower side, even when pushing down hard. There’s a metal bar on the bottom panel that seems to go through a hole in the center of the machine to offer additional stability. Despite the wider size, there’s no numpad, allowing the keyboard to be centered. Dell XPS 17 Review - My New Laptop?The keys have white backlighting which illuminates all keys and secondary key functions. You’ve got the option of changing how long they stay lit for in the BIOS, otherwise brightness can be quickly adjusted between two levels or turned off with the F5 shortcut. The keyboard felt a little different to me initially, but I quickly got used to it and liked using it. The presses weren’t too shallow and it was on the quieter side.

Dell XPS 17 Review - My New Laptop?The top right button is the power button, it’s right above backspace and the Windows default is to sleep the machine if you press it, so you might want to change that setting in case of accidental press.

The key is unmarked and is also the fingerprint scanner, which I found to work fast and accurately. You might not need to use it as a power button though, by default when you open the lid the laptop automatically turns on, which makes sense, chances are if you’re opening the lid you want to use the device, but you can disable this through BIOS.

The precision touchpad is huge. It’s extremely smooth to the touch, clicks down anywhere, and works well. Dell XPS 17 Review - My New Laptop?Mine wasn’t loose like others have reported in the XPS 15 either, it was great to use. The palm rejection seemed good too, even if I intentionally start moving my hands onto it while typing I don’t get interrupted.

Fingerprints show up on the black interior, but due to the finish they’re harder to notice compared to say a matte black design. The textured finish made it a little harder to clean with a microfiber cloth, but it wasn’t too difficult.

On the left from the back there’s a wedge lock slot and two USB Type-C ports, both with Thunderbolt 3 and DisplayPort support. Dell XPS 17 Review - My New Laptop? The right has two more of these ports, so all 4 offer thunderbolt 3 and displayport, along with an SD card slot and 3.5mm audio combo jack.

I confirmed that all 4 Type-C ports run via the Intel integrated graphics, but you can use all 4 to charge. Although there’s no Type-A ports built in, it does come with a Type-C to Type-A and HDMI adapter. Dell XPS 17 Review - My New Laptop?The back is clean, you can’t see it here, but air is exhausted down out the back. There’s a small light bar in the center on the front which seems to only light up when it’s charging.Dell XPS 17 Review - My New Laptop? The bottom was quite clean, just some air intake vents up towards the back. Getting inside was quite difficult, there are 8 TR5 screws but the panel was just difficult to pry off, I was able to get in by starting from the back and working around.Dell XPS 17 Review - My New Laptop? Inside there are two M.2 slots, two memory slots in the center, vapor chamber cooler up the back, large battery down the front, and WiFi 6 is soldered to the board on the right.

There are two 2.5w subwoofers underneath too, and when combined with the two 1.5w front facing tweeters, everything sounds excellent, this is easily one of the best laptops I’ve tested in that regard. There’s some bass and they were still clear at high volume, which sounded loud enough to me given they weren’t as loud as many others tested. Unfortunately the latencymon results were not looking good though.

This laptop is powered by a 6-cell 97Wh battery. I’ve tested with the screen brightness at 50%, background apps disabled and keyboard lighting off. Dell XPS 17 Review - My New Laptop?The results were quite impressive, I was getting over 9 hours in the YouTube playback test, making this the best result I’ve ever recorded from a laptop with this tier of CPU and GPU inside. With an actual game running it was going for over an hour and a half at 30 FPS, the cap set by Nvidia battery boost, then it dipped to 6 FPS and kept running for another hour.

I did note an issue with battery drain however. By default, there was no battery drain during any of my workloads, however if I boost the power limit in Intel XTU to get some additional performance, more on that shortly, I found that I lost 12% of battery after an hour while being plugged in running stress tests. Now before you say “big deal, just don’t mod it”, notebookcheck tested a higher specced model of XPS 17 and found the battery to drain faster at stock settings. Basically it seems that the 130w power brick isn’t enough to fully supply it with power when under heavy loads, so it will dip into battery reserves.

Let’s check out thermals and see if the vapor chamber cooler lives up to the hype.

The Dell Power Manager software lets you select between four different performance modes, optimized, which is the default, or cool, quiet and ultra performance, these modify power limits and fan speeds as you’ll see. Unfortunately it was not possible to undervolt the 10th gen processor in the XPS 17, it’s locked by default and I didn’t see any option of enabling it in the BIOS.

Thermals were tested with a 21 degree Celsius ambient room temperature. Idle results down the bottom were good. Dell XPS 17 Review - My New Laptop?Worst case stress tests were done with the Aida64 CPU stress test with CPU only checked and the Heaven benchmark at max settings at the same time, while gaming was tested with Watch Dogs 2. Quiet mode was running on the cooler side, then as per the name, cool mode was even cooler, but this is because it limits the GPU, as you’ll see soon. Optimized is the default mode and was only running at 69 degrees, nice. Even ultra performance isn’t getting too hot, keep in mind manually boosting the power limit in Intel XTU isn’t stock and is essentially an enthusiast modification, but when we do this the CPU would thermal throttle at 98 degrees, though the cooling pad helped out.

These are the clock speeds in the same tests. Dell XPS 17 Review - My New Laptop?Gaming in cool mode was basically not possible, the GPU cap was too harsh for this game, though it didn’t seem to be as much of a problem for this stress test. With the out of the box modes we’re able to reach 3.4GHz all core on the 10750H, but we could boost this by 500MHz by boosting the power limits, though as we just saw this comes at the expense of more heat.Dell XPS 17 Review - My New Laptop? The 1650 Ti was able to hit its 50 watt power limit in optimized or ultra performance modes, we can see that cool mode restricts the GPU much more compared to the other modes. Ultra performance mode seems to limit CPU PL1 to 35 watts, but yeah with XTU tweaks we could boost this past 50. Dell XPS 17 Review - My New Laptop?

When we look at CPU only performance, the CPU power limit is higher than what we just saw while the GPU is active, so these sorts of workloads should do better.Dell XPS 17 Review - My New Laptop?This allowed us to reach higher speeds as well, and at stock the temperatures were still good, but would rise if we manually boost power. Dell XPS 17 Review - My New Laptop?Here’s how the different modes perform in CinebenchDell XPS 17 Review - My New Laptop? compared to earlier there wasn’t much change by manually tweaking the system, it was already doing quite well here with the default modes. Dell XPS 17 Review - My New Laptop?The 10750H is a little behind the MSI GP75, as I was able to undervolt that one, however check out the single core performance from the XPS 17, it’s doing a fair bit better than those near it in multicore performance.

Based on the information in the PC world series with a Dell thermal engineer, it seems like Dell gives their systems a preference to lighter more bursty style workloads, which they say better represents most of their customers use cases, whereas most of the testing I do is long term and hits many cores at once as I aim to show a worst case.

Dell XPS 17 Review - My New Laptop?We can see this looking at some of my Cinebench scores over time, the first results start out better but then drop down over time as boosting periods end and things start warming up.

As for the external temperatures where you’ll actually be putting your hands, at idle it was quite cool and getting to the usual 30 degrees I see. Dell XPS 17 Review - My New Laptop?Quiet mode with the stress tests is about 10 degrees higher in the middle of the keyboardDell XPS 17 Review - My New Laptop? cool mode is a bit cooler, but as we saw earlier the GPU performance is lower here.Dell XPS 17 Review - My New Laptop? In the default optimized mode it’s back to around 40Dell XPS 17 Review - My New Laptop? and then a bit warmer in the highest ultra mode. Dell XPS 17 Review - My New Laptop?The middle felt fine on the keys, the back was approaching hot but you shouldn’t need to touch there so no problem.

It was silent at idle, with the stress tests going in the same quiet mode it wasn’t too loud, a bit higher in cool mode which was similar to the default optimized, while ultra performance pushes it a bit more, honestly not bad at all compared to the 50 to 55 decibels I usually see with gaming laptops. It seems that Dell is prioritizing a cooler and quieter machine at the expense of some performance when under heavy load.

Although not a gaming laptop, the hardware inside should allow us to get some gaming done, so let’s compare it against some other laptops. The XPS 17 has a 16:10 resolution, but I’ve tested at 16:9 for comparable results with my existing data, so expect a bit worse at the proper 1920 by 1200 resolution.

In Battlefield 5 I’ve got the XPS 17 highlighted in red.Dell XPS 17 Review - My New Laptop? It’s closer to the bottom of the stack due to the 1650 Ti graphics, and although it is able to come out ahead of the GTX 1650 options, the 1650 Ti in the TUF A15 was doing a bit better just above it.

These are the results from Far Cry 5 with ultra settings in the built in benchmark. Dell XPS 17 Review - My New Laptop?This time the XPS 17 was ahead of the TUF A15 with the same GPU, with big gains to the 1% low performance, though the jump up to the next options was a fair bit higher.

These are the results from Shadow of the Tomb raider with the built in benchmark at highest settings. Dell XPS 17 Review - My New Laptop?The A15 with the same GPU was back in front now, still though, based on this I’d expect most games to play well enough at low to medium settings.

Again, although not a gaming laptop, I just had to test the screen response time, as while playing a game I did notice that it wasn’t looking great, and this is from someone who thinks they aren’t too sensitive to it. Dell XPS 17 Review - My New Laptop?The grey-to-grey response time was 34ms on average, but I saw up to 58ms, so yeah not great, but I only noticed it when attempting games so probably not a big deal unless you planned on gaming.

Now for the benchmarking tools, I’ve tested Heaven, Valley, and Superposition from Unigine, as well as Firestrike and Timespy from 3DMar. Dell XPS 17 Review - My New Laptop?I’ve used Adobe Premiere to export video at 4K, and the XPS 17 was doing alright here, beating some Ryzen based systems with higher tier graphics options, as the Intel iGPU helps it out. Dell XPS 17 Review - My New Laptop?I’ve also tested Premiere but with the Puget systems benchmark which also accounts for things like live playback rather than just export times.Dell XPS 17 Review - My New Laptop? Adobe Photoshop was doing better, as this workload typically seems to depend on CPU power more than GPU.Dell XPS 17 Review - My New Laptop? Davinci Resolve on the other hand seems to leverage the GPU more, so the XPS 17 is scoring lower compared to most other machines I’ve tested.Dell XPS 17 Review - My New Laptop?I’ve also tested SPECviewperf which tests out various professional 3D workloads. Dell XPS 17 Review - My New Laptop?I’ve used Crystal Disk Mark to test the storage. Dell XPS 17 Review - My New Laptop?The 512GB NVMe M.2 SSD was performing well, and the SD slot was basically maxing out the read speed of my card, however the writes were much lower in comparison.Dell XPS 17 Review - My New Laptop? I suppose this is less of an issue though, I presume the majority of people will be using it to dump footage rather than writing to it. The SD card sits most of the way into the laptop, but does not click in.

In the US the XPS 17 starts from $1400 USD, however for the better CPU and graphics that I’ve got it’s $1900, while the fully specced out option is $3000. Here in Australia we’re looking at about $3000 AUD for the entry level model, my spec is $3900 AUD, while the max spec listed here is $5400 AUD and doesn’t even have the 8 core processor or RTX 2060 max-q graphics, so yeah definitely quite expensive. With all of that in mind let’s conclude by summarising the good and bad aspects of the Dell XPS 17 laptop to help you decide if it’s worthwhile.

Overall I think the XPS 17 is an excellent machine, the build quality is great and the screen looks amazing. By having such thin bezels it’s able to use less space and doesn’t end up too much bigger than some 15” machines, though it is a bit wider, but this allows for front facing speakers that sound fantastic. While it is possible to play games on it, the slow response time doesn’t make this a great experience, but it’s not designed to be a gaming laptop so I can forgive that.

The battery life was great, the keyboard and touchpad worked well, and I thought the performance was reasonable if you consider that Dell are prioritizing a cooler and quieter machine, which seems fair as it’s likely targeted towards professional use, however there is room for some performance mods if you don’t mind running hotter. There were only a few things I didn’t like. The battery drain isn’t great, but may only be noticeable in heavier loads with a higher specced configuration.

Opening the lid was a little awkward due to lack of space to get your finger in. Soldered WiFi isn’t optimal, but at least it’s WiFi 6 so should last for a while yet. It would have been good if undervolting was an option, and although Type-C is clearly the future, depending on your peripherals the I/O might take some getting used to. At least it comes with a dongle though, but I suppose for the price you’d hope so, as the XPS 17 is quite a pricey machine. I can personally live with those things I just mentioned, but when it comes down to it, I wouldn’t personally want to spend this much money for the levels of performance on offer.

The performance isn’t bad or anything, but take Adobe premiere for instance, my older Aero 15x outperforms it so it’s not exactly an upgrade, as good looking as the screen may be. There are cheaper options that perform better, it just comes down to what your priorities are, and price aside, at the end of the day I think the XPS 17 is looking quite solid all things considered. Let me know what you thought about the Dell XPS 17 laptop down in the comments.

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